Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy Gardening in 2017!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Symposium Sneak Peak: Vegetable Garden Planning - Why it Makes a Difference by Bill Orchard

Photo courtesy

As the carpenter says, “measure twice, cut once,” so should the gardener say, “plan twice, avoid goof ups!” Planning ahead is the first way to avoid making costly mistakes when starting a vegetable garden. And now is the time to start planning. We are indoors for the next several months, so armchair gardening is the way to increase your knowledge – it will pay off when it comes time to start outside. It will make your garden a compliment to your existing landscape and provide you with an abundance of healthy vegetables.  Following are five best management practices to make planning go smoothly.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Celebrate the Winter Solstice by Donna Duffy

Photo BlueDotMusic

It feels like the days just can’t get any shorter, and it’s true. Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. 

December Solstice (Winter Solstice) arrived at 3:44 am in Denver, today December 21, marking the moment that the sun shines at its most southern point (in case you are counting, the sun is about 91.473 million miles from earth today).  This day is 5 hours, 38 minutes shorter than on June Solstice. In most locations north of Equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date. To the delight of many of us, this means that the days will start getting longer, however incrementally.

The Winter Solstice is celebrated in many cultures around the world. It is a major pagan festival with rituals of rebirth having been celebrated for thousands of years. In the northern latitudes, midwinter's day has been an important time for celebration throughout the ages. Nova Scotians celebrate the Winter Solstice as Children's Day to honor their children and to bring warmth, light and cheerfulness into the dark time of the year. In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Beginning Vegetable Gardening Symposium January 28, 2017 by Amy Bubar

Jill Knussman Colorado Master Gardener using best practices in our demo garden.
Jefferson County CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardeners announce their 2017 Spring Gardening Symposium to be held on Saturday, January 28, 2017 from 8:45 AM to 4:00 PM at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.  Come join us for a full day of vegetable gardening excitement for beginning and intermediate gardeners in particular.

Morning Session:
Best Management Practices for Planning This Year’s Garden. Where do you start? Lear the basic planning skills to guarantee a great garden this year whether it is your first garden or you are trying to perfect the one you already have. 
The Dirt on Dirt. It is estimated that nearly 80% of all garden problems originate with the soil and lack of appropriate preparation.  Learn how to avoid problems and develop the best soil possible for the biggest and healthiest harvest ever.  
The 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Colorado. Why not start with the most successful veggies to grow in Colorado?  You will not only get a list of the top 10 best, but we’ll tell you how to do it successfully as well as how to share techniques for succession planting to keep it interesting for three seasons.  
Lunch and Learn Class (requires special registration – limited space)
Incorporating Flowers and Herbs into the Vegetable Garden.  Add some interest and variety to your vegetable garden by incorporating aromatic herbs and edible flowers to the mix.  Learn the best options for Colorado gardens and how to do it successfully.
Tomatoes.  The Holy Grail.  If you only grow one vegetable, make it a tomato!  So what are the secrets of growing the best tasting, best producing tomatoes?  Are heirlooms better than hybrids?  What are the most common things people do wron?  Learn this and more to make your tomato crop amazing.  
Starting Seeds or Transplants? What is best? What is easiest?  What’s the difference?  Variety?  Cost?  And the list goes on.  What are the best strategies for planting seeds?  Come get a great tutorial in starting your garden the best way possible for you.  
Container Vegetable Gardening.  Short of space?  No worries.  Almost any vegetable can be successfully grown in a container.  You will learn container planting strategies to maximize pleasure and production from your small space gardens.  
Let us help you step up your vegetable gardening success this year by taking your gardening skills up a notch. No questions unanswered! 

To register visit For more information call the Jeffco Extension Office at 303-271-6620.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Garden Gnomes for Christmas by Carol King

No doubt many a gardener will receive a  garden gnome for Christmas.  They are available at all the garden shops, big box stores, and even the grocery store in the produce section!  So why are gnomes given to gardeners?

Gnomes first appeared in European folklore as benevolent creatures who rewarded the good behavior of farmers, merchants, and housewives with assistance in fields, shops, and gardens at night. They also thought to ward off thieves from stores of grains and vegetables in barns. Why wouldn't any self respecting gardener want one or several?

Ceramic gnomes were first manufactured in rural Germany by Phillip Griebel in the middle of the nineteenth century.  From there they spread to England in 1847 and later to the USA. Garden gnomes have a rich history, but, as we well know, they (and their owners) have occasionally faced persecution from the general public.  The Royal Horticulture Society of Britain even banned the use of "brightly colored creatures" including lawn gnomes in 2006 at the Chelsea Flower Show.

I found another pitfall beside ridicule that might make you reconsider the garden gnome: they can become real pests in the garden. 

Watch this film from our cohorts at Utah State Extension for tips on Gnome Management.

I hope a garden gnome is in every gardener's stocking!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Winter Leaves That Hang On by Donna Duffy

This Acer grandidentatum, Bigtooth Maple, is slow to drop its leaves in winter,  photo by Donna Duffy
Ever wondered why some deciduous trees hold on to their leaves through the winter and others go bare? Learn about marcescent leaves and why they might just help a tree out. The article below was written by Jim Finley, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pamper Your Poinsettias! by Donna Duffy

Photo CSU Co-Horts
Many of us will adorn our homes with poinsettias this holiday season. You’ll have several colors (pink, white, variegated, even hand painted) to choose from in addition to the traditional deep red. Regardless of color, look for dark green foliage, and richly colored bracts (the modified, colorful leaves). Poinsettias are tender plants, and will drop their leaves very quickly if chilled. Be sure to protect the plant with a plastic sleeve as you leave the store or nursery.
Follow these tips to keep your poinsettia healthy and colorful.

Light: Find a location with very bright, indirect light. Don’t put it in a hot, sunny window.

Water: Apply water thoroughly whenever the pot feels light, or the soil is dry to the touch. If the leaves are wilting, water immediately. If your plant came in a basket, discard any standing water. If it is wrapped in foil, cut a hole in the bottom and put a saucer under the pot.

Fertilizer: Use an all-purpose indoor plant fertilizer until the poinsettia is in full color, then cut back and fertilize at ½ strength every third or fourth watering.

Temperature: Poinsettias don’t like cold, but they will appreciate a cool room (60-70°). Avoid hot or cold drafts from heaters, fans, fireplaces or ventilating ducts.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America. They came to the U.S. by way of our first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett in 1825. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous. Even so, they should be kept out of reach of pets and small children.

For more information check this Poinsettia Fact Sheet.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Choosing a Fresh Christmas Tree by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
Are you thinking of getting a fresh Christmas tree this year? It seems that there are tree lots on every street corner and the choices can be overwhelming. Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree and keep it that way.

At the tree lot:
  • Check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; 
  • Shake it carefully to look for needle loss; 
  • Check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. 
If these conditions exist, buy the tree and take it home.

At home:
  • Make a new cut at the end of the trunk about an inch above the old one.
  • Keep the cut end standing in water, whether you decorate the tree immediately or not. This allows a fresh route for water to travel into the trunk. 
  • Check the tree's water level frequently, and refill as necessary. Fresh evergreen trees can take up an amazing amount of water. You may have to fill the reservoir several times a day. Don’t let the water level drop below the trunk, as a seal will formant prevent the tree from absorbing water.
  • Keep your tree away from heat sources such as a heating duct or television set. A fresh tree that receives good care should remain in safe condition indoors for ten days to two weeks.
You can also cut your Christmas tree at several U. S. Forest Service locations near the Front Range, provided you have a permit.  The USDA Forest Service web site , (Rocky Mountain Region Regional Christmas Tree Program) has information on where and when to get a permit, cutting dates and times, tips on caring for your tree including a recipe for a fireproofing mixture, and other details. There are also Christmas tree farms along the Front Range that allow you to “cut your own.” 

For more information on selecting the perfect tree check this CSU fact sheet:

Enjoy that fresh tree! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs by Carol King

Photo brighter
Paperwhite narcissus are classic holiday flowers that display the spirit of Christmas. They are available to purchase everywhere during this season. Classical mythology states that a young man named Narcissus was vainly staring at his own reflection in a pond and he fell in and drowned, then legend says that the first narcissus plant came up where he had lost his life. They’re sold this time of year to give us something pretty to grow during the darkness of winter. 

Planttalk Colorado has this advice for planting these lovely bulbs:

"Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) are one of the easiest bulbs to force for cut flowers or ornamental displays in the home from December to March. They are a form of daffodil that can be forced without a chilling period.To force paperwhites, fill a bulb pan with about one to two inches of potting soil, then position the bulbs in the soil so they are nearly touching each other with pointed end up. Add enough potting soil so that only the top half of the bulbs remain exposed, then water well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cornucopia: Origins by Carol King

Cornucopia Photo
The cornucopia is the symbol of abundant harvest and is most often associated with Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a horned shaped vessel filled with an abundance of the earth's harvest. 

Cornucopia became an English word in 1508 when it first appeared in the dictionary. Its origins are from two Latin words; Cornu meaning "horn" and Copia meaning "plenty". 

The cornucopia has been a symbol of a great harvest for centuries and was probably first referred to in Greek and Roman myths and dates back to the 5th century B.C. My favorite is the Greek version: “ Almathea was a goat who nursed and raised Zeus. While playing one day, Zeus accidentally broke one of her horns. He was so saddened by this that he used his godly powers to fill the broken horn with whatever Almathea wanted so it became the horn of plenty. Zeus also put the goat's image in the sky and that is our constellation Capricorn.”

The symbol of the cornucopia was also used, along with rolling fields of grain, to lure new settlers to come to the New World. It is now in our national consciousness as a symbol for bountiful garden harvest and the sharing of food that has become our American Thanksgiving.  

Wishing you and yours a harvest of good food and good fortune! Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fall Invaders: Insects in the Home by Mary Small

Box Elder Bug Photo

When days shorten and temperatures become chilly, folks often find uninvited guests – insects and their relatives- sharing indoor quarters. Although annoying and even startling, these creatures are just trying to hunker down for winter. They need to find shelter where temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees F. The west and south sides of a home can provide warm places to hang out as they search for prime real estate. They don’t need much of an opening on the home exterior to find it, either.  Many can squeeze into quarters using an opening the width of a credit card!
The best way to manage the intruders is to keep them out in the first place.  Look for exterior openings around windows, doors, etc., and caulk them. Examine door sweeps. Can you see light underneath the door? It’s time to replace the sweeps.  These steps will help keep the unwanted critters out and you’ll be increasing energy conservation, too!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Battling Fruit Flies by C J Clawson

Photo Counsel & Heal News
Fruit flies are quite common this time of year. The Drosophila (meaning dew-loving) species of the insect world– also called vinegar flies or pomace flies for their characteristic of being found near over ripe or rotting fruit.  If you have a problem with them in your kitchen, here's some strategy:
  1. Wash any salvageable fruit and store in the refrigerator, if possible.  This goes for all future fruit purchases too – no need to import fruit flies from the grocery store.
  2. If using a kitchen scrap composter place the compost in the counter composting crock and take it outside until temperatures fall sufficiently to kill off larvae.
  3. Thoroughly clean kitchen garbage bin and disposal; wipe down counters.  Check floors for juice spills and toss out any questionable sponges or cloths.  Don’t let things like wine glasses sit with residue in them – remember, sweet and/or fermented moisture is what drew the fruit flies in the first place.
  4. Throw out all the over ripe fruit on the counter.  This means tight bagging and immediate transfer to the outdoor garbage bin – don’t just toss it in your kitchen garbage can. 
  5. Set some traps.  They can be purchased at a hardware store or make your own using cider vinegar or wine, a jar, and either a plastic bag or paper funnel. Place an inch or so of liquid in the bottom of the jar.  Make a funnel with a piece of paper or cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and place over the jar so the small end of the funnel is close to but not touching the fluid.  Replace the trap every seven to ten days.
Here are some interesting facts about fruit flies. The 1933 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Thomas Hunt Morgan whose work with Drosophila led to the identification of chromosomes as the vector for genes in heredity.  Currently, fruit flies feature prominently in research on diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Fruit fly wings beat around 220 times per second compared to hummingbird wings that beat at about 70 times per second in normal flight. Fruit flies only live eight to ten days but a female will lay approximately 500 eggs during that time. 

Here's a fact sheet with more information: Fruit Flies in the Home

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Protecting Trees and Shrubs from Extreme Temperature Drop by Carol King

Our first round of really cold weather is headed this way.  Although it is in the 70’s today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday night are predicted to be in the teens and twenties.  What comes to mind is September 2014 when we experienced a dramatic drop in temperature that destroyed many trees and shrubs. Could this weather event be a repeat of that one?

I spoke with Patti O’Neal, CSU Jefferson County Extension and she gave me this advice:
  1. We have been watching, and trees have begun their dormancy process now, whereas in 2014, they had not. 
  2. The temperature won’t drop like it did overnight in 2014.  This will happen more gradually over a two day period so the element of “sudden-ness” will not hit the way it did previously. 
  3. The way things have been predicted lately and the difference between 2014 and what has actually happened have been pretty disparate. Some areas of the metroplex have hit 32 degrees, while Arvada, for instance,  has not been below 39 yet. 
So what to do?
In the event the meteorologists are actually correct this time, make sure you water well; trees in particular if you have not already done so this past week.  Roots go into a freeze much sturdier moist than dry and whatever the plant can take up tonight and tomorrow is just that much better.

Use a hose and sprinkler if your system has been turned off already and make sure you place the sprinkler to the best advantage of the feeder roots of the tree (at the drip line) and not the trunk of the tree.  Then make sure to unhook the hose from the bib after you finish to prevent freezing and damage to your pipes.

It is also predicted that temperatures will go back up again next week.  Stay vigilant and water during the warmest part of the day into next week if you can as the ground will not have frozen yet. 
The fact that the trees have begun their dormancy process should protect them as well.  That was an issue in 2014 when they had not.  Where we expect we might see some further damage is on trees that were damaged in 2014 and are still struggling to recover.  Ornamental pears with bark damage from the 2014 freeze that are still trying to put on new bark, for example, might be candidates for issues.  Wrapping with paper will not help at this point.  Additional protection such as insulation, a campers freeze blanket or a hot water blanket would be a far better choice. 

In summary, the event should not be as brusque as the 2014 event on the whole, but weather is unpredictable and we should prepare as best we can at this point. 

Pines Shedding Needles is Normal by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Are your pine trees dropping their needles? There is no cause for alarm; they are probably naturally losing their needles. Everyone knows that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, but fewer people learn that evergreen trees also lose their old needles in the late summer and  fall. Evergreens normally do shed previous years' needles on a regular basis. Often there can be a "heavy" needle drop on Front Range landscape pines, spruces and firs. The most common causes of excessive needle drop are too-wet and too-dry soils. It has been very dry this summer and fall.

There may be a problem if there is yellowing or dieback on the tips of branches. Consider drought, salts, root damage, spray damage, soil compaction, conifer aphids, mountain pine beetle and other factors. Occasionally, "deciduous conifers" such as bald cypress, larch and dawn redwood are found in Colorado landscapes. These conifers lose all their needles every autumn, to be replaced the following spring.

For more information, check out these articles at Planttalk Colorado™.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Overwinter Your Container Plants by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy Pinterest

It’s the time of year to start thinking about how to overwinter perennial plants that have been happily growing in containers this summer. Containerized trees, shrubs and perennials are subject to Colorado’s winter temperature fluctuations, drying winds and freeze-thaw cycles. Planttalk Colorado provides the following suggestions to get your plants ready when the first hard freeze arrives.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

All Those Leaves! What to Do? by Donna Duffy

Leaves, leaves, leaves!! Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Special thanks to Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension agent,  for sharing the following article.

Ugh. Dealing with leaves in the fall. It’s almost like nature mocks us. We work hard all summer to grow tomatoes, mow the lawn religiously and fend our garden from insects and disease. Just as we want to take a break and watch some football, the trees decide to drop their leaves and landscape maintenance continues.

I’ve been asked this question a lot—What should I do with all the leaves that drop? There’s a lot of great ways to use them, including composting, tucking them around newly planted plants, throwing them in the veggie garden to till in next spring or mulching them into your lawn.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jefferson County Master Gardener Calendars for Sale by Bill Orchard

Need a calendar for 2017? Want to get a unique and distinctive holiday gift? The Jefferson County Gardeners are conducting a fund raiser with their calendar sale.  The calendars are available at the Extension Office for $12 each or by mail for $15 (quantities of five or more are sent free). The calendar consists of beautiful pictures taken by Jeffco Master Gardeners and Native Plant Masters and features some of their beautiful gardens. Included with the picture of the month are a second complementary garden picture, the monthly garden "to do list", and either a Plant Select or Native Plant selection.  The native plants were selected by the Native Plant Masters as plants they recommend for use in the home landscape. This aligns with the Plant Selects, which are chosen because they are plants that do well in our environment. Both common and botanical names of all plants are provided.
The money raised will go into the Master Gardener Fund which awards scholarships to horticultural students from any Jefferson County High School, Junior College or any State College or University.
For a copy of this beautiful calendar, please visit the CSU Extension Office in Jefferson County, 303-271-6620, 15200 West Sixth Ave, Unit #C, Golden, CO 80401, 8am to 5pm weekdays.  Checks made out to “Master Gardener Fund” can also be mailed to Calendar Sales, c/o Stan Ames, 15855 W Ellsworth Pl, Golden, CO 80401.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Master Gardeners Celebrate 40 years of Service in Jefferson County by Amy Bubar

This year, Jefferson County CSU Extension’s Master Gardeners are proud to be celebrating their 40th anniversary of service to Jefferson County residents. Jefferson County has one of the largest cadres of Master Gardeners in the state. These volunteers utilize research-based information to foster successful gardeners, develop partnerships and build strong communities. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Amaryllis: The Joy That Keeps on Giving by Patti O'Neal

Samba Amaryllis, photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Amaryllis is a rare gift to a gardener, providing near instant gratification producing a magnificent spectacle in 4-6 weeks. It’s a gift of growing something and making it bloom right in the middle of snow and freezing temperatures. The trick for many is to get them to do it again the following year. 

Amaryllis is a tender bulb, meaning it does not require a chilling period to bloom.  These beauties originate in the temperate climates of South America where they grow and bloom outdoors.  Here in the chilly Rocky Mountains we enjoy them “forced” during the holidays of December and on into January and even February.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Photo courtesy Design*Sponge

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gourd Birdhouses by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy

It’s gourd harvesting time! There are two basic types of squash that are grown and used decoratively:
1) Cucurbita or soft-skinned gourds – these are the colorful orange, gold and green gourds that look like small squash and come in odd shapes; 2) Lagenaria or hard-skinned gourds – these larger, utilitarian gourds include the familiar Birdhouse, Bottle and Dipper gourds. Hard skinned gourds grow green on the vine and eventually turn shades of tan and brown.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wrap Trees in Winter to Prevent Sun Scald by Carol King

Sunscald is often called "southwest injury" because it most occurs on the southwest side of young tree trunks. In Colorado, it primarily occurs from December through March on young, thin-barked, deciduous trees.  If you have newly planted trees, protecting them from sun scald should be on your To Do list.  And late October, early November is the best time to wrap them. Colorado Master Gardener Gail shows you how in this video.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fertilize Bluegrass in the Fall for a Green Spring Lawn by Carol King

Photo Carol King
Did you know that fall is the best time of year to fertilize Colorado's bluegrass lawns and you still have lots of time to do this?  If you fertilize now, you won't have to do anything in the spring but watch your lawn turn green.

Planttalk Colorado give us the advice to "simply fertilize with nitrogen sometime during late September to early November at lower altitudes, and earlier in the mountains." 

The benefits of fall fertilizing include a healthier turf before winter, a healthier root system, and stimulating a turf that greens up earlier in the spring without excessive top growth. 

Fall fertilization produces dense, green spring lawns and should be a part of every good lawn care program.

For more information including how much nitrogen to put on your lawn see this fact sheet:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall Rose Care by Donna Duffy

The arrival of fall brings the realization that winter really will be here soon. Among all of your other fall garden chores, be sure to plan some time to get your roses “tucked in” and ready to brave whatever winter may bring. According to the Denver Rose Society’s publication “Growing Roses in Colorado,” there are five basic steps to remember.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Crow Damage and Control by Joyce D'agostina

American Crow, photo courtesy
Attracting birds, bees and butterflies to your garden has always been a great idea. However this year, I have notice a much larger population of the black crow, Corvus corax, in our neighborhood. Crows have been known for many years to be foragers who will eat just about anything, including your favorite garden fruits and vegetables.

About mid-summer, when some of my tomatoes were finally ripening, I heard a commotion in the garden and noticed several of the crows flying out of my garden area. To my disappointment, they had helped themselves to several of the ripe tomatoes and also had done damage to a few others.

Since I am not always available to catch these crows when they are in my garden, I had to think of something to help deter them. The magpies also were very interested in my garden crops so I had to think fast to try to come up with something to deter them without doing harm or damaging my garden. Crows are known to be very clever birds with great memories and tend to travel in groups so that they help protect each other as they forage so I had to find something effective.

Mylar windsock, photo by Joyce D'agostina
One item that I saw in a gardening catalog is a windsock type device that you hang in your garden. This item was made from a Mylar plastic that caused bright hologram type lights as the streamers move in the breeze. This was reported to be annoying and a deterrent to birds but was harmless to bees and butterflies.

I purchased one of these windsocks and hung it in the garden. I noticed almost immediately that the birds stayed away from the garden and no more plucked or pecked tomatoes. It was also hanging close to a Lavender Hyssop which the bees love and it didn’t seem to cause any issues with them continuing to enjoy that plant. This seemed to be a good solution because I didn’t want to use any chemicals or other harmful solutions to keep these hungry birds from my garden.

Scarecrows, photo courtesy Wikipedia

Scarecrows have also been for centuries as a way for farmers to keep these birds from their crops. The idea was to make a large figure that resembled a human that would make the birds think that there were people in the garden, which scared them away. Today Scarecrows are found all around the world and there are scarecrow making contests. Adding a scarecrow to your garden will not only possibly help keep away the bird pests but also add a great seasonal look to your garden. If you google Scarecrows and your city or county name, you may find a local event featuring scarecrows.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Summer Vacation is Over for Houseplants by Rebecca Anderson

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) that has spent the summer outside
Most houseplants are tropical and flourish with some outdoor exposure during the summer.  With cooler nights in the forecast it’s getting to be time to bring them back indoors.  Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit will damage many houseplants, so keep an eye on those nightly weather reports.